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The Canadian Foundation for the Americas (FOCAL) is no longer in operation. This website documents FOCAL's activities and accomplishments throughout its existence. Thank you for your interest in the work of FOCAL.
|Policy Papers & Briefs 2004|
The Changing Role of the Military in Latin America
This policy paper examines the current trend to redefine the roles and missions of many of Latin America's armed forces— both at home and abroad. Since the end of the Cold War, militaries around the world have seen a reduction of traditional inter-state conflicts, which has prompted them to start seeking a new raison-d'être. Latin America is no exception. The region has in fact experienced a plethora of recent changes aimed at modernizing these most conservative of its institutions. Domestically, there have been attempts to re-institutionalize the armed forces, often reducing their size and defence budgets. There has been a trend towards professionalizing armies, increasing the participation of females, and moving into non-traditional nation-building roles that often overlap with law enforcement. There's also been a push to internationalize militaries, given the increasingly globalized nature of security, and an emerging priority of multilateralism and international cooperation in many countries' foreign and defence policies. This trend has seen a number of Latin American countries beginning to embark on large-scale peacekeeping, which in some cases includes joint missions with former enemies.
On July 1 the negotiating process officially began between the Colombian government and the so-called United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, AUC), the largest paramilitary force operating in the country. Civil society and the international community are yet to be included and it is unlikely that the demobilization of all AUC members will meet the agreed target deadline of December 31, 2005. However, the fact that the process is still in place is a sign of hope on the road to peace in Colombia. It is the purpose of this paper to address the following questions: Can the Colombian judicial system, in its current state, guarantee that the truth will be established, that the perpetrators of human rights violations will be prosecuted, that victims will be accorded reparations, and conditions for reconciliation will be created? What can civil society and the international community do to assist Colombia's judicial system in the pursuit of these goals in the context of the on-going dialogue between the government and the paramilitaries?
Globalization, Immigrants' Transnational Agency and Economic Development in their Homelands
Globalization is accused of exacerbating poverty and inequality in developing countries. Critics point to the millions in Latin American, Caribbean, Asian and African countries living in rising poverty and attributed this to the march of globalization. International migration is the human dimension of globalization. Together with the USA and Australia, Canada is one of the three major immigrant-receiving countries in the world. In 2002, there were approximately 4,000,000 immigrants from developing countries, 52% of whom are from Asian developing countries. This paper addresses these issues; in particular, the issue of remittance market development and some of the most recent initiatives that rich countries and some international development authorities have either launched or are contemplating to improve remittance market efficiency. The paper categorizes these initiatives into initiatives “from above” and “from below” and cautions against initiatives “from above” that could hinder rather than facilitate remittance flows into poor households. The paper addresses some of the key issues relating to transnational immigrant communities in the Canadian context and their bearing on Canada's domestic and international development policies. It proposes a research agenda within a multidisciplinary comparative framework to stimulate academic and policy discussion and to carry forward investigation of these and other kindred issues.
The Canada-Mexico Relationship: The Unfinished Highway
This paper sets out to illustrate the nature of the Canada-Mexico bilateral relationship and to identify some of the potential areas for mutual cooperation. In the remarkably short span of the last ten years, Canada and Mexico have developed a more dynamic and mature relationship based on frequent exchanges within ad hoc working groups and informal exchanges that cover a broad range of economic, political and social issues, including human rights, elections, good governance, federalism, and trade; all of them priority areas for Canada's foreign policy. While this strategy has enabled both countries to deal with these issues in a very flexible way and with visible and concrete results, thus facilitating the strengthening of their bilateral relationship, this relationship is practiced in so many areas at lower levels of government that although effective it remains invisible for the people who are not involved in it directly. The challenge for these two countries as they try to redefine their foreign policy (and with it their role in the world) is to build on the achievements of this bilateral relationship and to use them as a basis for joint actions in other regional settings.
Think local, act global: Labour migration and emerging challenges of policymaking in a transnational world
This paper seeks to draw attention to some of the underlying dynamics of international migration from Central America in particular and Latin America and the Caribbean in general as part of a process of mutual interdependence between sending and receiving areas primarily through the incorporation of labour. Thus, migration is part of the broader process of globalization through the (dis)integration of labour markets in the Americas. This “integration” suffers relatively high levels of exclusion and marginalization due to the undocumented nature of many of the flows. At the same time, this interdependence is linking families and communities across borders forming translocal and transnational relationships in which new actors take their place on the global stage. This has lead to new development dynamics linked to migration that offer a host of opportunities as well as reveal new problems and challenges, not the least of which have to do with local and national policy formation. Because of the transnational or translocal nature of many issues due to migration, institutions need to develop programs that stretch beyond their administrative borders in order to resolve problems at home.
Diaspora, Migration and Development in the Caribbean
The paper examines the developmental impact of the growth of the diasporic economy on Caribbean territories like Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and the Anglophone Caribbean. It focuses on issues like remittances, diasporic exports, brain drain, as well as the new health and security risks associated with migration and mobile populations. The key areas of benefit and cost are evaluated and an assessment is given of emerging challenges and opportunities. The paper concludes that the policy dialogue should move beyond the remittances issue to take into account wider developmental concerns.
Available in Spanish: Diáspora, Migración y Desarrollo en el Caribe
The Achilles' Heel of Latin America: The State of the Debate on Inequality
Increasingly, Latin Americans no longer believe that democracy is able to improve their lives in a region where 40 per cent live in poverty, and the richest one-tenth owns almost half of the wealth. The growing understanding of the tight links between gaps in income and opportunity, prosperity and political stability is changing the debate on inequality in Latin America.This paper seeks to assess the state of the debate and policies to reduce inequality, among the region’s academics, non-governmental organizations, governments, and multilateral institutions participating in hemispheric processes. It draws upon discussions on tackling inequality in Latin America held in 2003 and early 2004 at multiple fora across the Hemisphere. What emerged is a growing consensus that Latin America’s high inequality has constrained economic growth and underlies much of today’s social and political instability. Moreover, the need to devise specific policies to reduce the equity gap within and between societies consistently appears in hemispheric discussions as a prominent, if not primary concern, irrespective of ideological preferences or geography. Considerable attention is thus allocated in this paper to tested and untested strategies to redress the equity gap.The paper discusses various aspects of education and tax policy, which are widely considered prime avenues to increase levels of equity. It will also examine the heated debate on how to liberalize trade and integrate economies to collectively elevate the wealth of the region’s population, and how to ensure that gains are shared broadly. Finally, it considers the implications for Canadian policy.
Available in Spanish: El Talón de Aquiles de América Latina: El estado del debate sobre la desigualdad
“New Directions for Latin America? A Survey of Post-Washington Consensus Thinking”
Guatemala: Can Berger Break the Cycle?
In terms of ‘free and fair’ the Guatemalan first and second round of elections in November and December 2003 were probably the best in 60 years. The paper discusses the key roles played by the international community, Guatemalan election staff and domestic observers in overcoming threats to the process. The elections are viewed within the overall political, social and economic context of Guatemala. If rhetoric were bankable, Oscar Berger, would be beginning his presidency with a very favourable balance. Good appointments to economic portfolios join a few symbolically important gestures to indigenous and human rights communities. Berger has committed his government to implementation of the 1996 Peace Accord’s political, economic and cultural objectives. However, formidable obstacles stand in his path. He inherits an empty treasury from his predecessor Alfonso Portillo and confronts a public service environment of endemic corruption. His political coalition Gran Alianza Nacional (GANA) occupies a minority position in the legislature. Traditional discrimination against the generally impoverished Maya is changing, but too slowly to satisfy the indigenous population and the international community. The paper forecasts that Berger’s administration will be unable to substantially correct systemic weaknesses and cultural prejudice, but may lay the foundations for more lasting change by successor governments.
Available in Spanish: ¿Podrá Berger Poner Fin a los Problemas en Guatemala?
For countries emerging from conflict, balancing the compromises of peace settlements with the pursuit of justice and long-term reconciliation is a significant challenge. There is no single path that can be prescribed in achieving this balance. Processes of justice and reconciliation are influenced by numerous factors including the impact of the conflict, parameters of the settlement, resources available, the degree of political will and consensus, institutional capacity, cultural norms, etcetera. However, a key lesson from experiences to date is that, regardless of the context, in-depth planning and preparation of strategies for justice and reconciliation must occur well in advance. This requirement has historically presented a challenge for both state and international actors, as attention and resources have understandably tended to focus on the conflict at hand. Accordingly, this paper looks at the issues of post-conflict justice, with a view to future Canadian engagement in Colombia, drawing upon regional and international experiences to date.
The New Latin American Debt Crisis and Its Implications for Managing Financial and Social Risk
The potential for sovereign default in Latin America has become a very real possibility. This was driven home by Argentina’s recent sovereign debt crisis, which represented the largest default in history. The Argentine case suggests that the current market-based approach of sovereign debt management is not conducive to dealing effectively with the social risks associated with financial crisis. The existing informal and ad hoc international architecture of sovereign debt management serves to place the interests of transnational financial actors over those who must face the brunt of the crisis – which includes the poor who now account for over 50 per cent of the Argentine population. It also acts to restrict policy formulation in such a manner as to create a legitimacy deficit for crisis-hit governments, which, in turn, could have destabilizing effects, such a further deterioration of a country’s creditworthiness due to political unrest. This paper reviews three sovereign debt governance mechanisms put forward in the wake of the Argentine crisis, although it cautions that a preferable solution must involve examining the root causes of sovereign default in the current era.
The Corporate Social Responsibility System in Latin America and the Caribbean
This paper advances our understanding of the existing system of corporate social responsibility (CSR) promotion and advocacy in Latin America and the Caribbean. It begins by contextualizing the relative importance of, and commitment to, corporate social responsibility in the Americas through a cross-national comparison of levels of CSR activity. The paper then elaborates a model,"The CSR System" which theorizes the key relationships and influences on the development of the CSR culture in the region. It defines the major actors working to promote CSR in the hemisphere as multilateral organizations, governments, private firms, private foreign foundations, educational institutions and civil society organizations. The CSR System model shows that considerable impetus behind the promotion of CSR in the region comes from outside Latin America. By understanding how the system of CSR promotion and advocacy works, it is possible to identify the pressure points where the CSR agenda can be best moved forward. The paper advocates strengthening the watchdog capacity of independent non-governmental organizations (NGOs), in order to work towards a CSR system that not only promotes corporate social responsibility, but also engenders business compliance with its CSR obligations.